Commentary

Latinos shunned by U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force

In October 2018, U.S. Soccer launched a nine-member Youth Soccer Task Force whose only Latino member was the U.S. Soccer President, Carlos Cordeiro, who was born in India to a Colombian mother. But we were told that the Task Force would expand.

Cindy Cone was added when she became U.S. Soccer Vice President, which means seven of the 10 members are U.S. Soccer officials, U.S. Soccer board members, or both.

Long before Cone was added last February, we were assured that the Task Force would be adding "working groups." They would add diversity and assuage those who pointed out that the Task Force charged with transforming soccer in America was comprised of mainstream insiders who already held power. Pete Zopfi, U.S. Youth Soccer chair and U.S. Soccer board member, told Soccer America's Beau Dure:

"My intent is from our side to make sure we populate those work groups with a diverse group of people. If we don’t get that diversity, we’re not representing youth soccer as it exists today, which is extremely diverse in all areas of the country."

Nearly one year later, we learn that the Task Force setup has grown to nearly 60 people: the 10 members, plus the 48 assigned to six working groups including eight staff support, and U.S. Soccer’s Chief Stakeholders Officer Brian Remedi.

Besides Cordeiro, not one Latino -- no man of Latin American origin or descent -- is among these 59 people.

The absurdity of a national organization in the USA, especially one that governs soccer, not giving representation to the Latino community in 2019 should not need explaining. But let's do remind ourselves that the USA's population is about 18% Latino. Since we're dealing with youth sports, it must be pointed that, under the age of 18, about 25% of the USA’s population is Latino.

Because of the composition of this Task Force, I guess it is necessary to explain that soccer's popularity is significantly higher within the Latino community than the overall population. And that there has been a long history of excluding the Latino community from mainstream soccer. The latter, it seemed, was an issue in which we did see progress.

This year, the boys youth national teams, from U-14 through U-20s, were up to about 40 percent Latino. Yet not a single Latino was deemed worthy of being on the Youth Task Force’s eight-person Working Group for “Coaching,” which does get input from five members who hail originally from Britain and one who was born in Spain raised in Belgium. And that group is staff-supported by Belgian Barry Pauwels.

The “Diversity & Inclusion” Working Group is chaired by Craig Scriven, who launched his coaching career in England and is the president of the USSSA Soccer, which represents fewer soccer players than play in unaffiliated Latin leagues in California. The Staff Support is Tonya Wallach, U.S. Soccer’s Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer. The group’s members are: Yvonne Lara (a Latina who started her career in soccer two years ago when she became Director of Marketing and Communications at AYSO), Indiana-based Ryan Sparks, Osuman Issaka of Nebraska, Eddie Henderson (ISC Gunners/Washington State Technical Director), Jene' Baclawski (South Texas ODP Technical Director) and former U.S. women's national team player Lindsay Tarpley.

One of the six groups covers refereeing, and it seems to be making a positive impact. I base that on the recent launch of the new Referee Pathway, which addresses one of the biggest problems I saw in the previous approach by making the entry level qualifications more accessible by adding the online component. But considering the large Latino contingent of referees in the USA, it too should have a connection to the Latino community. With the constant struggle to fill the reffing ranks, wouldn't outreach to those reffing in unaffiliated Latin leagues be one of the solutions to pursue?

And what would be a more obvious tactic toward expanding membership than courting unaffiliated Latin leagues? That was a mission of U.S. Soccer when Alan Rothenberg, Bob Contiguglia and Sunil Gulati served as president. Under Rothenberg's reign, U.S. Soccer hired Carlos Juarez to be a liaison to the Latino community, work that included bringing Latino coaches into the U.S. Soccer's coaching schools. It continued with U.S. Soccer hiring guys like Rene Miramontes, Carlos Menijvar, Juan Carlos Michia and Roberto Lopez. They enabled U.S. Soccer to certify thousands of Latino coaches.

Indeed, there has been incredible progress since the days when Latino players were rare in the youth national team program and on elite youth club teams. But during Gulati's tenure five youth national teams had Hispanic coaches. Today? It's only Tab Ramos,  U-20 head coach. He's also been Youth Technical Director during the U.S. men's youth national team program's unprecedented success, based both on results and players moving up. But it's obvious that Ramos has been marginalized since the U.S. Soccer regime change of 2018.

The guys U.S. Soccer hired years ago to connect with the Latino community are still heavily involved in youth soccer. I spoke with Miramontes, Juarez and Lopez. They never got a call from anyone involved with U.S. Soccer's Task Force asking who they'd recommend as valuable additions from the Latino community. There are so many other obvious, easy-to-reach American soccer people whom the Task Force could have contacted to help identify extremely qualified Latinos for the Task Force's work.

How does one not draw the conclusion that U.S. Soccer doesn't appreciate or respect Latinos who are part of its membership? How does one not conclude that U.S. Soccer doesn't care about the vast Latino soccer community that isn't yet part of its membership?

24 comments about "Latinos shunned by U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force".
  1. Bob Ashpole, September 6, 2019 at 9:12 a.m.

    Another USSF management initiative to ensure that nothing changes.

  2. Ron Frechette, September 6, 2019 at 10:59 a.m.

    Bob, the question will be how many documents will be produced and where they will be burried in some backroom never to see the light of day.
    <Sic>One point not made in this article is how many of the committee members are from middle to upper middle income communities - It looked like the intent of the committees was to ensure that group was covered!

  3. cony konstin, September 6, 2019 at 11:40 a.m.

    We need radical change. We need a 21st century master plan. We need a warriors and not politicians. We need a soccer REVOLUTION! 

  4. Derek Mccracken replied, September 8, 2019 at 11:41 a.m.

    I would suggest that readers take the link to Gardner's commentary, and to Woitalla's article, and plaster them all over social media. Put these links on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, etc. Go the USSF's sites, to FIFA's sites, etc. for all of these social media outlets and post it on there as well. Make sure you tag U.S. Soccer so anyone searching for them will also be led to your tag.

    Even consider placing the add on commentary sections, and social media sites, of big media sites like Washington Post, NYT, WSJ, LA Times, Chicago Trib, CNN, Fox, etc.

    The only thing that will move this U.S. Soccer mafia is embarassment on a very wide scale. We can all do our part by distributing the links far and wide

  5. R2 Dad, September 6, 2019 at 12:08 p.m.

    This situaiton comes to the surprise of no one on this site. We can save everyone all the time and expense of generating reports by announcing, Everything is Fine, Carry On!
    There is no doubt this is the Carlos Cordiero everyone voted for. Thanks, voting members of USSF! Another bumper year of Status Quo!

  6. Jim Ngo, September 6, 2019 at 11:02 p.m.

    The organization does appear to be set up to ensure things stay exactly the way they are, protecting the privilege of access to top clubs and regional and national pools for wealthy families.

  7. Derek Mccracken, September 7, 2019 at 11:16 a.m.

    Excellent article by Woitalla and one of the better pieces I’ve seen in Soccer America in a while. This is why I continue to subscribe to this soccer media outlet.


     


    Regarding the article, the lack of change to this "good ol' boys" network that is the USSF, kind of like an impossible-to-penetrate mafia, is why I feel the USMNT won’t see the significant improvement we all hope to see for decades to come. US Soccer's love affair with anyone with a variety of UK accents is discouraging and nauseating. The fact that the USSF continues to shun our country’s fast-growing, soccer-loving, Hispanic population is incredibly short-sighted and irresponsible.


     


    As long as US Soccer’s principal aim is to grow soccer, and recruit, mostly within the suburban, middle class & upper middle class, population, we are doomed to continue to be a mediocre men’s national team program. This was evidenced by the drubbing we received from our most bitter rival last night which played with a wonderful Hispanic flair, while our defenders and some midfieldes, who seemed to be playing with “all thumbs” looked incredibly uncomfortable with the ball at their feet. The USSF should be incredibly embarrassed by this performance. It’s clear that, while Mexico is greatly improved, the USMNT has taken several steps backwards.


     


    From what this article points out, it also seems as though USSF leadership, comprised mostly of Americans with European lineage, is satisfied with our mediocre status quo and not interested in change. It’s apparent that this organization is more interested in cronyism & protecting their jobs than making necessary changes which would lead to rapid and vast improvement of our USMNT program.

  8. Rookie NY, September 7, 2019 at 11:41 a.m.

    What an embarrassment, especially after last night's game, and what a sure fire way to ensure further embarassment well into the future.

  9. Mark Calcat, September 7, 2019 at noon

    I am not to fond of the national obsession to slicing and dicing every group so that it is politically, ethnically correct and do not but the implied premise of the article, that this "Task Force" should be selected by national lineage. Racist by actual definition, not the current definition of it's racist if the "right" people say it is.

    The US is 5.3% Italian and 10.1% Irish. There are approximately 2,000 Italian restaurants to every Irish restaurant.  I used the same source as this article.  However, the restaurant industry does not shun Irishes, their food is only served in "Pubs", possibly because anesthesia is required to make it palatable.

    Here is an idea: form a task force composed entirely of outsiders to sport, particularly soccer, to study why the US Women have been at or near the top of the world charts since Anson Dorrance became coach and stopped listening to US Soccer in choosing his players. That was in 1986 and they have not stopped winning yet.

    We need a task force to study why USSF makes terrible decisions.

  10. Ric Fonseca replied, September 7, 2019 at 1:58 p.m.

    Mr. Calcat:  So, yet form yet "another" task force "to study" the situation that sits and smacks on straight in the face?  Please!!!

  11. Gordon Holt replied, September 7, 2019 at 3:25 p.m.

    Let's be clear here: Title IX had more than a little to do with the USWNT early successes, and the base it has continued to build on. 

  12. Ric Fonseca, September 7, 2019 at 1:36 p.m.

    Golly gee and holy willikers, in other words, a que la chingada!  Algunos campian pero nada cambia.  Gee and a lots of kudos and muchsimas gracias Mike, The guys you mention, were in fact and deed part and parcel of our efforts, as set forth by the old and now archived LATIN AMERICAN SOCCER COACHES ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA (LASCA) that was FIRST organized by former US Air Force Coach and Univ San Francisco alumni, Lou Sagastume, Oneonta and SUNY Alumni and then WC USA Asst Coach, Ralph Perez, and yes even Steve Sampson, myself, Joe Supe and then Miramontes, Menjivar, Carlos Juarez, and many, many others.  And yes, it is true that Rothenberg and Steinbrecher welcomed and supported the group and even the old NSCAA welcomed us with open arms, alas only if it was to eventualluy subsummed the group making a "committee" of the board.  When will it change?  Mike mentiones the "unaffiliated" Latino soccer leagues, youth, amateur and adult, that literally permeate the country's major and some not so major cities.  And yet, the beat goes on, but with a few token Latinos.  Let it be said, amigos, we ain't giving up and ain't goin nowhere!

  13. Larry Chen, September 7, 2019 at 6:56 p.m.

    I think you’re missing a important detail. This is a national organization, right? Therefore, it needs to represent the entire nation.

  14. Ric Fonseca replied, September 9, 2019 at 3:47 p.m.

    Yes, it is a national organization, yet it isn't representing nationaly as you intimate it should. So as we say in mi casa, que paso?  

  15. Kevin Leahy, September 7, 2019 at 8:44 p.m.

    First, please don't compare restaurants to people. It boggles the mind what goes on in this federation. How can things be this bad in 2019? I thought the academies division break down was bad. How do you remove all these people? It FIFA wasn't as bad they, would move in and dismantle the whole organization. What an embarrassment!

  16. Kent James, September 7, 2019 at 11:15 p.m.

    Great reporting Mike.  This is the kind of thing we can't get just by watching the games, and it's not like the NY Times is going to cover it.  Hopefully your reporting will encourage some change.  Anyone with half a brain (and maybe less) could see that excluding the Latino community is incredibly short-sighted.  I would have hoped we could do better by now.

  17. Hugo Salcedo, September 8, 2019 at 12:29 a.m.

    Mike, very good and realistic article
    There are many, many of us who would love to serve our beloved sport in any capacity.
    Hugo Salcedo

  18. Frank Copple, September 8, 2019 at 2:42 p.m.

    Tweeted to Telemundo, Fox Sports, CNN, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports and CBS Sports.

  19. Richard Crow, September 8, 2019 at 3:22 p.m.

    The Hispanic community definitely gets shafted, but U.S. Soccer also facilitates the blatant swindling of middle and upper class families. There can't be any country where so much money is spent on such a poor product that does not develop soccer players.
    There are many upper class families that quit supporting the youth game because they know that travel soccer is a rippoff. You don't get rich by making bad investments. 

  20. Nick Gabris, September 8, 2019 at 4:31 p.m.

    Great article! If there is blame to go araound, blame the membership for the person they voted in. We knew then that the status quo was what it was going to be. Sad.

  21. James Madison, September 8, 2019 at 8:30 p.m.

    As I wrote in commenting on the Gardner follow-up, it will be intersting to see whether any member of the working groups, whatever their assignment may be, will protest the exclusion by being unwilling to serve unless it is fixed and not just be some token.

  22. Michael Saunders, September 9, 2019 at 11:34 a.m.

    I am very fond of Soccer America and have been a reader since its inception.   I also understand that it must seek "subscriptions" to survive, particularly in the age of the internet and the information "boom" via social media.   Yet there are articles and commentary that demand a wider readership  simply because the content is important for the sport and society as a whole.


    Mike Woitalla's well researched piece, and Paul Gardener's excellent follow up commentary needs to be distributed to major media outlets and newspapers in order to force change.   Otherwise it will languish in the Task Force and whitewashed in a manner that will ensure the status quo which is totally unacceptable.    


     

  23. Ric Fonseca replied, September 11, 2019 at 2:36 p.m.

    Mr. Saunders, I share your comment, though I tooo have been a reader and writer/contributor to SA, way back when it was barely known as SOCCER WEST, based out of Oakland, and am very cognizant of the need of seeking subscriptions, yada-yada.  

    And YES, I am in total agreement that both articles need to be more broadly distributed, and even for a while I was wondering why Sports Illustrated (G. Wahl???) has not posted I think he was written something on it, but how many subscribe to SI or how many Latinos also read that piece of sports jopurnalism?)  Whose job is it to distribute the articles of such importance? The writers?  The readers?  How about everyone that gives a damn about the subject contact his/her local sports writer, and since I am sure that the Los Angeles Times very own soccer beat writer has a subscription to SA, so why hasn't he picked up on it - in fact could he be even reading these comments?  At one time we had Scott French, that was the soccer beat writer for the other (now extinct/defunct) newspaper (gone only a few years yet I've even forgotten what it was called!) Someone above said they had linked the articles to other social media outfits, that true?

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, September 12, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.

    Ric, I shared one of the articles on Facebook (public) and sent links to both SA articles to the news department at the NY Times.

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